NETHERLANDS: Man Cleared Of Daughter's Genital Mutilation

A court has cleared a man of mutilating his 5-year-old daughter's genitals in the Netherlands' first trial linked to alleged female circumcision. The district judges in Haarlem said Friday there is no doubt the girl was mutilated but there is insufficient evidence to convict her father, Mustapha El M.

Prosecutors said the girl told a carer that her father had cut her with a pair of scissors, but judges said the statement was not strong enough evidence to convict him. El M. (30) was convicted of beating and biting his daughter and was sentenced to three months imprisonment for the abuse.

The trial was supposed to send the message that the Dutch justice system is serious about suppressing female circumcision, a practice which in some African cultures is considered a rite of passage. There have been dozens of successful such prosecutions in France.

But the prosecuted man here hailed from Morocco, where experts say genital mutilation is uncommon. At the hearing two weeks ago, child gynaecologist Ineke van Seumeren said the injuries didn't resemble those of other genital cutting victims. She said the circumcision looked like "regular" mutilation.

But whether the mutilation was cultural or not, the prosecutor said it had to be considered "abuse in the highest category" and demanded six years imprisonment. "We are not interested in the reasons for the mutilation. The signal is: it is illegal," a spokesperson said.

El M. replied that he felt victimised by the prosecution's "wish to score". He pleaded not guilty, saying: "I did not do this, circumcision is not a part of my Islam."

The man had been previously convicted of abusing and raping the girl's mother. Because of parental problems and the fights between them, the girl was placed in care. Her foster parents reported the injuries and the story that her "daddy" cut her genitals with a pair of scissors.

SOURCE: NRC Handelsblad

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DATE: 18/09/2009

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